There are many athletes in this world, who are extremely talented at their profession but appear to lack the drive and will to succeed at all costs. Then, you have athletes like Kobe Bryant, who rise off of self-ambition and even the smallest slights will alone drive them to achieve perfection. Kobe Bryant knows that ESPN ranked him at number seven on this season’s Top 100 players list. He knows that people are saying he’s too old, lost a step, and that the likes of Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Derrick Rose have eclipsed him in terms of fan respect and who their favorite players are. But that’s what drives Kobe, and that’s why this season he is averaging just under 31 points a game. Yes, that means Kobe Bryant is leading the league in scoring and is on a mission for his sixth scoring title.
Last postseason the Los Angeles Lakers were swept by eventual NBA champions Dallas Mavericks. In that four game span Bryant only averaged 23.3 points per game as the Mavericks frustrated the Lakers all four games and led many to wonder was this the end for Kobe as the perennial star of the league. This whole situation reminds me so much of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls as they lost to the Orlando Magic in six games in the Eastern Conference Semis in Jordan’s return from his first retirement in 1995. Michael and Kobe were both 32, their teams both lost in the second round, the season before, the two both won championships and going into the offseason they both weren’t considered the best players in their respective eras anymore. Obviously Jordan retired and took a near two year break before returning to the Bulls that March of 1995 (so yes his last season), but the comparison is still valid.
For Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon was considered the best player in basketball after winning two straight NBA titles. Grant Hill and Penny Hardaway were emerging stars and Jordan wasn’t considered “Jordan”, anymore. So what do you do when your throne is considered taken? You work harder than you ever did before, and Jordan did just that by packing on muscle, further polishing his offensive game, and went on an offensive tour de force, averaging 30 points, shooting just under 50 percent from the floor, and shot nearly 43 percent from three. Of course, that team went on to go 72-10, and cruise to an NBA title and two more.
Jordan was the type of person you didn’t want to challenge, and Kobe, is that exact same animal, feeding off of disrespect so that he can torture his opponents just for you.
To further add to the point, Kobe is in full attack mode the way Jordan was in 1996, he’s shooting just under 46%, which is right above his average of 45. His three point percentage (24%) may be slightly affected by his hurt wrist, but that didn’t stop him in a recent four game stretch where he went 48, 40, 42 and 42 again while shooting 39% from three in that span.
Kobe is destined and determined to regain the crown that was originally his, and challenge all of those who are standing in his way. For Michael Jordan, it wasn’t pretty for his opponents, as he led the Bulls to one of the greatest seasons of any professional sport in history. Only time will tell what happens for the duration of the regular season and playoffs, Kobe will be the one who decides his fate.
His progress so far? Great. Maybe a little help from the Lakers bench and who knows….